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One Of Largest Demonstrations Ever in Stockton Invisible to Bush

"This is consciously and in an organized fashion endeavoring to deny us our civil rights, and they know it," said Forrest Schmidt, an organizer with International Action Center in San Francisco.
One Of Largest Demonstrations Ever in Stockton Invisible to Bush
By Dana M. Nichols and Audrey Cooper
Record Staff Writer

 http://www.truthout.org/docs_02/08.26E.stockton.htm
Saturday, 24 August, 2002

One of the largest protests in Stockton history was largely invisible to its intended target: President Bush.

Big rig trailers, buses and other security tactics effectively blocked the view from protest sites to Bush events Friday at Stockton Memorial Civic Auditorium and A.G. Spanos Jet Center, sparking charges of unconstitutional interference with protesters' freedom of speech.

"This is consciously and in an organized fashion endeavoring to deny us our civil rights, and they know it," said Forrest Schmidt, an organizer with International Action Center in San Francisco.

Schmidt said he obtained a city permit to hold a demonstration in Martin Luther King Plaza, across the street from the Civic Auditorium, but arrived to find five San Joaquin Regional Transit District buses parked along Center Street blocking the view between the plaza and the auditorium.

Schmidt offered to allow police to do security checks on his group so they could protest in sight of the auditorium, but officers refused, forcing protesters onto narrow stretches of Center Street where it crosses Fremont and Oak streets.

Stockton Police Department spokesman Doug Anderson said the buses were put there at request of the Secret Service, and city officials would not have known about them in advance.

"There is certain information like that that is classified that can't be put out," Anderson said. He said police did what they could to work with protesters, including finding them bus parking near the Civic Auditorium.

The first sign-toting protester to arrive at Stockton Metropolitan Airport was quickly ushered by law enforcement back to a 20-foot-by-100-foot section of the parking lot that was hidden from the terminal and Air Force One by large buses parked nearby. Meanwhile, flag-waving Bush supporters were allowed to stand along a yellow caution tape and watch the president leave his airplane.

"This is a gross violation of my rights, but what can I do about it?" Stockton resident Richard Slezak said, holding a handpainted sign that called Bush a liar and killer.

A dozen labor union members soon joined Slezak in the protest area, holding signs denouncing gubernatorial candidate Bill Simon. They also complained they were prevented from waving their signs from the curb on Airport Way, while Bush supporters ran up to the street to wave at the presidential motorcade.

Lt. John Huber of the San Joaquin County Sheriff's Office explained to the early-morning protestors that the area was designated by Secret Service officials and was closer to the action than the Secret Service's first protest-area choice: the edge of the airport property, at least a half-mile from the supporters.

"I did my best for you. You can go up (to the front of the airport) as long as you leave your signs here. But if there is yelling and screaming, we'll move you back here," Huber said.

That policy changed around 11:30 a.m. when Bush returned to the airport for the Simon fund-raiser. More than 350 protesters showed up and refused to move to the back of the parking lot. After a heated debate, Huber and a protest organizer agreed that the group could stay put as long as sticks were taken out of placards and the sound system was dismantled. A few megaphones were allowed.

"They revoked free-speech rights earlier today, and we just reinstated them," protester Schmidt said. "The Secret Service often confuses good and bad press with constitutional rights."

Bush supporters leaving the fund-raiser were forced to walk through the group of protesters, who were yelling slogans about preventing a war in Iraq and asking fund-raiser patrons, "How much did you pay for democracy today?"

A handful of pro-Bush demonstrators held signs that read "The '60s are over" and "Go Bush."

Heading off a war with Iraq was the top cause of the day among those protesting Bush policies. But at least a dozen other issues also figured in the demonstrations, including Bush's alleged ties to corporate criminals, his decision to allow more logging in national forests, anti-union measures taken in the name of fighting terrorism, higher federal tax rates imposed on single people, and attempts to use the war on terrorism to suppress domestic dissent.

At least two of the issues raised by protesters had little direct connection to the federal government: the effect of the state budget impasse on developmentally disabled people and fears that privatizing Stockton's sewer system would subject city residents to the same corrupt corporate practices that have surfaced lately in energy and high-tech corporations from Enron to PayStar.

More than 20 severely developmentally disabled people -- many of them in wheelchairs -- and their caregivers circled on Fremont Street behind the first row of observers and protesters at the Civic Auditorium, chanting and waving signs.

There, Richard Jacobs, executive director of Valley Mountain Regional Center, said he and his clients came to protest out of desperation, even though the funding woes are due to a gridlock in state government and have nothing to do with Bush.

"We're just trying to get some attention," Jacobs said. "We figured everybody else in the world would be out trying to get their message across."

Groups with representatives on hand included Public Citizen, the Green Party, Democratic Party groups from San Joaquin and Tuolumne counties, International Longshore and Warehouse Union Local 10 from San Francisco, San Joaquin Delta College's Student Committee Against Racism and Sexism, and the Peace and Justice Network of San Joaquin County.

Maria Cristina Ramos, 63, of Stockton was the first protester to arrive Friday morning where Center Street crosses Fremont Street. She wore a red-, white- and blue-spangled baseball cap she bought in Reno, and a shirt featuring an American flag, and she waved American, California and Mexican flags.

Ramos described herself as a patriot, an immigrant who came to the United States at age 14 and who is proud of the citizenship she won five years later. That's why she came out to tell her president not to endanger the nation's peace and prosperity.

"I'm tired of the violence of the wars," Ramos said. "I don't approve of revenge."

Although a few protest signs may have been visible when Bush's limousine went through the intersection of Fremont and Center Streets, most of those massed against the barricade were flag-waving supporters whose cheers temporarily drowned out protest chants.

"These signs are all anti-American," said Vince Caprini, 42, of Stockton, a Bush supporter who took time off work to see the motorcade whiz by. "We should support the president right now."

Caprini said he believes most Valley residents support Bush and his foreign policies.

But John Morearty, a longtime Stockton-based peace activist, joined the hundreds massed outside the Civic Auditorium in the city's largest protest since 1967. "Y'all come back real soon," he told the other demonstrators through a microphone at the close of an impromptu rally at Oak and Center streets.

homepage: homepage: http://www.truthout.org/docs_02/08.26E.stockton.htm


No Permits 25.Aug.2002 13:13

radact

Yet another argument for No Permits! The cops have two methods of dealing with political dissent: if they can get us to tell them all our plans, and thus create a state-sanctioned protest, they can make our voices totally invisible and our messages completely irrelevant. Good cop. If they can't, they bring out the weapons of terror and attack us at any convenient juncture. Bad cop. While I don't think getting brutalized and terrorized should be the goal of protest, it's far better to reveal the power for what it really protects and represents than to wander around chanting in a vacuum. As to whether our anti-Bush message got lost in the protesters v. police media spin, I've had several folks call from around the country totally thrilled to hear that the opposition even exists.

SS needs to think about this. 25.Aug.2002 16:18

Peter

I should point out, I abhor all violence, even against bush, before i talk about theoretical assassination attempts, but anyway, here goes.
If you think about it, it's kind of ridiculous that the buses were requested by the secret service. if anyone is going to try to assassinate bush, they're not going to be standing back across the way with a sniper rifle. they'll be up with the "flag-waving Bush supporters" "allowed to stand along a yellow caution tape and watch the president leave his airplane."
It's not like hiding a rifle in a "go bush! repress us more! yay for pollution!" sign handle is hard (in fact the more i ponder it, it seems frighteningly easy) and anybody going after bush probably gave up on doing it and getting away a long time ago.

that said, the secret service are some of the smartest federal agents around, and they know this. not to mention, city buses really aren't an obstacle for a sniper. it's not hard to walk around, climb a tree, shoot between them. all kinds of things. they were there, i'm guessing, because of what they learned in portland, that bush isn't popular, and buses are harder to push past than a line of cops. or so some would think.